When I told my family & friends that I was traveling to Colombia, the first question asked was: Is it safe to travel in Colombia? Well, if any of you have been reading the news this year you’ll know that Colombia’s President Santos was awarded the 2016 Nobel peace prize for his efforts to secure a deal with the Farc to end their part in a 53-year armed conflict. The United Nations certified that more than 7,000 guerrillas had turned over their weapons. A similar peace agreement is now being sought with the other rebel fighters, the ELN. So, peace is here, & it’s real! For most of my life, I have heard stories about Colombia, mostly of cocaine, killings & essentially civil war between the government & rebel groups. Well, things are changing now & tourism is here in a major way. This country is absolutely stunning in its natural beauty, from the beaches on the Caribbean to the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Cocuy Mountains. Despite its relatively small size, Colombia is the second most biologically diverse country on Earth, home to about 10 percent of the world’s species. This biodiversity results from Colombia’s varied ecosystems—from the rich tropical rainforest to the coastal cloud forests to the open savannas. I aim to be here 6 months, quite possibly stay as an expat 1+ years if I fall more in love with this amazing country (I’m almost there)! So far, I’ve been here in Bogota one month, initially thought to just spend five days here. I am thoroughly enjoying the friendly people, nightlife, amazing restaurants at even more amazing prices ($3usd for 5 course meals), the incredible murals & graffiti art all over that tops even NYC in style! La Candelaria neighborhood has been my home base, which I highly recommend. It is the oldest part of Bogota & famous for its cobblestone streets, over 80 hostels, museums & views of the stunning mountains just up the street. While many residents complain about Bogota’s chilly mountain air & traffic jams, Bogota is the beating pulse of everything in Colombia. Here you find the best of what Colombia has to offer. As more tourism has arrived & security increased in the city, Bogota is now more entrepreneurial then ever before! Below you can read about my take on the music scene, vegetarian restaurants & more. Disfruta Bogota!
:: MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE ::
During the weekends you can find everything from swinging salsa bars with live bands, traditional Afro-Colombian music with gaitas (flutes), cumbia, rock n’ roll, jazz & of course many DJ’s pumping reggaeton & current electronic music! If you’re a guy, you will soon see why Colombian women are considered the most beautiful womenin the world, up there with Brazilians. And, you better learn some Latin dances, because they like to dance! The three main party districts are La Candelaria, Chapinero & La Zona T (also known as La Zona Rosa). Club entry varies in price. If your an early bird & not into the nightlife so much, head to Carerra 7, aka La Septima, in La Candelaria on Sundays 8am-2pm where they close the streets off to cars & have bands, performance art & vendors.
Bogota Bar Crawl: Experience the best of Bogota nightlife in an all inclusive tour of the cities most popular pubs, bars and clubs! Get together with other tourists every Saturday in Zona Rosa & visit multiple venues for one small price. www.barcrawlbogota.com
Info/Tickets: +57 314 346 1354
La Villa: Carrera 14a #83-56, Bogota. For travelers, this is the place to be. For these two reasons:
1) GRINGO TUESDAYS is a free language exchange & party every Tuesday!!
*5-9PM – Free language exchange to practice English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian & more with native speakers
*9-3AM – Our party just made Tuesdays the coolest night of the week!
2) LATIN DANCE FRIDAYS
Learn Salsa for Free and Practice with Locals Every Friday!! The creators of Gringo Tuesdays have done it again – This time La Villa opens it’s doors for a FREE Salsa class with Colombia’s top dance professor’s, crazy drink specials and their hottest djs spinning the best of Latin Rhythms & Afro Beats all night long to practice your new moves!
*6-10PM – Free Salsa class (7pm)
*10-3AM – Dance party fiesta, almost always a full house!
BoogaLoop: Carerra 13 #65-42, Bogotá. This place consistently has good live bands of all genres, from cutting edge fusion, to traditional music, with great DJ’s in between. It became one of my favorite venues in Bogota! https://www.facebook.com/Boogaloopclub/
Latino Power: Calle 58 # 13-88, Bogotá. This place also has consistently good live bands…mostly Latin music, Rock, & even Psychedelic Cumbia! https://www.facebook.com/Latino-Power-1464133963916486/
El Pico: Calle 82 #12A-23, Bogotá. Lots of live traditional Colombian music such as champeta, cumbia, also hip-hop, etc. https://www.facebook.com/elpicobogota/
Armando Records: Calle 85 #15-30, Bogota. Popular DJ nights, rooftop terrace, expensive cocktails. Very trendy place for electronic music lovers. http://armandorecords.org/
El Bukowski’s: Calle 37 #20-40, Bogota. Thursdays live Jazz jam 9pm, Fridays open jam 8pm. https://www.facebook.com/elbkw/
Café Rosas: Carerra 4 #12D-27, Bogota. This tiny bar in the happening La Candelaria gets bumpin & packed most nights of the week. My favorite is Wednesday night for live local bands playing Cumbia, Salsa, etc.
Quiebra Canto: Carerra 5 #17-76, Bogota. The place to be for live salsa & DJ nights. Many travelers & locals visit here beginning Wednesday & throughout the weekend.
Theatron: Calle 58 #10-32, Bogota. THE Bogota gay bar which features 13 rooms of noise, jam-packed to the gills with a friendly, mixed crowd.
:: Music/Theater/Arts & Cultural Centers ::
1) L’ Aldea: Calle 17 #2-77, Bogota. This space is another cultural center full of live music, theater, dance, performance art + a great bar & restaurant. http://aldeanichocultural.org/contenido.html
2) Fundacion Gilberto Alzate Avendano: Calle 10 #3-16, Bogota. They have an impressive amount of live music, theater, dance & other events in this cultural center. Almost every night of the week something is going on here, generally beginning at 7pm. http://www.fuga.gov.co/
3) Seis Manos: Calle 22 #8-60, Bogota. This restaurant & bar is also a multi-cultural center for music, indie films & performance art. Super-cool venue! Seven nights a week they have something going down! Plus this monthly language exchange get together the first Saturday of the month.
:: OTHER STUFF ::
Which neighborhoods to stay?
Easy answer…..La Candelaria!!! It’s the oldest part of town, the Heart of Bogota, with colonial buildings, cobblestone streets, a few plazas, museums & theaters on every block & hundreds of great restaurants!
Book your AirBnB there & receive $40 free credit (see my blog on how to do this by creating a new account with alternate email):
How to Renew Your Colombian Tourist Visa:
There are two ways to extend the initial 90 day tourist visa to reach the 180 day limit. One way is to leave the country, for example, by traveling by road to Ecuador or Venezuela. When you re-enter Colombia you will simply be issued with another 90 day tourist visa. The alternative method of visa renewal is to apply for one at the local office of Immigration Affairs (IA). A branch of IA is located in each of the county’s major cities. In Bogota, the office is situated at Calle 100 #11-27, and in Medellin the address is Calle 19 #80A – 40, Barrio Belén. A full list of centers is available via the immigration office’s website. https://latintravelguide.com/colombia/tourist-visa-renewal
Shipping for American Expats made easy: They will handle your customs forms, taxes due, & ship from Miami to Colombia or wherever you are in Latin America. www.CaribbeanShipper.com
Organic Vegetables & Food Boxes Delivered To Your Home:
Gluten Free Bread In Bogota: click here!
Connecting with Community:
*Bogota Expat Events: https://www.facebook.com/groups/36076406707/
*Great website for Music Events & other info: http://cartelurbano.com/
:: Other great Bogota/Colombia blogs ::
Buses & Transportation within Colombia ::
Bogota to Medellin =399kms…9hrs.= avr.cost 55,000cop ($18usd). 4:30am-9pm.
Always check ahead (Rd.conditions) Bus info # 571)423-3600
Other bus companies: http://www.bolivariano.com.co/
Flights Bogota to Medellin average $79-100usd each way, 45 minute flight.
Hiking :: Check Facebook groups for “Bogota Caminantes” to find a few groups that do weekly hikes. As well as this site: https://zomoz.com.co/
I most definitely recommend hiking up to the top of Monserrate, about a 1.5 hour hike up that will reward you with a stunning panoramic view of Bogota! Of course, you could be lazy & take the gondola down. They have plenty of vendors selling food up there, a church to pray, & a fancy ‘date’ type romantic restaurant. Go for sunset!
Happy Yoga Colombia: Carerra 9 #70-29. https://www.facebook.com/happyyogaencolombia/
Yoga Bakata: Carerra 5 #15-11, 5th floor. https://www.facebook.com/yogabakata
Loto Azul: Carerra 5 Bis #12C-02. Vegetarian restaurant + Yoga Studio. Mercado for ogranic goods as well! http://govindaslotoazul.com/yoga/#
:: Health Food Stores ::
Supermercado Naturista: Calle 17 y Carrera 7, near La Candelaria.
La Esperanza: Calle 18 #8-47, Bogota.
Free Food Tour Bogota :: I highly recommend this your first few days in Colombia. You will try over 6 different foods & get acclimatized to Colombia’s taste buds!
Meeting Time: Everyday. 2 pm (we start at 2:10pm).
Meeting Point: Museo del Oro Entrance (at Santander Park). See how it looks
Address: Calle 16 # 6 – 02. Map
Price: We offer it for free but we accept donations based on your satisfaction (people donate voluntarily around 30mil each) that being said you donate what you consider the Tour was worth it 🙂
Food Price: The total is $18.000 COP per person if you have all food at every stop. We believe in “sharing is caring”, so you can make it cheaper by sharing with your friends or with other participants 🙂
More info: www.beyondcolombia.com
:: VEGETARIAN RESTAURANTS ::
Loto Azul: Carerra 5 bis #12c-02, La Candelaria. Not only a vegetarian restaurant, but an organic grocery store section + Yoga classes, vegetarian cooking classes & more! http://govindaslotoazul.com/
Quinua y Amaranto: Calle 11 #2-95, La Candelaria, Bogota. This restaurant & little natural food store ‘cocina saludable’ (healthy kitchen) is all organic & very highly recommended for health enthusiasts looking for the rare all vegetarian restaurants in Colombia. Hours = Lunch 12pm-3pm, Dinner 6-7pm.
Luciernaga: Carerra 3 #12D-83, La Candelaria, Bogota. This place is not only a café serving organic & vegetarian food, they have a little “eco-tienda” with natural food products for sale such as quinoa, granola, etc. They also have a store selling womens clothing & a hair saloon, all under one roof!Hours = 9am-8pm
Nativos: Carerra 2 #12-52, Bogota. My favorite lunch restaurant in La Candelaria. Only 9,000 COP ($3usd) gets you a 5 course vegetarian organic meal! Soup, salad, quinoa or rice, vegetables, beans all very tasty + a fruit juice. They have a shop with natural products, chocolate, ghee, kombucha, kefir & things hard to find in Colombia as well.